: The Violet Fairy Book
Once upon a time there was a woman who had three sons. Though
they were peasants they were well off, for the soil on which they
lived was fruitful, and yielded rich crops. One day they all
three told their mother they meant to get married. To which
their mother replied: 'Do as you like, but see that you choose
good housewives, who will look carefully after your affairs; and,
to make certain of this, take with you t
ese three skeins of
flax, and give it to them to spin. Whoever spins the best will
be my favourite daughter-in-law.'
Now the two eldest sons had already chosen their wives; so they
took the flax from their mother, and carried it off with them, to
have it spun as she had said. But the youngest son was puzzled
what to do with his skein, as he knew no girl (never having
spoken to any) to whom he could give it to be spun. He wandered
hither and thither, asking the girls that he met if they would
undertake the task for him, but at the sight of the flax they
laughed in his face and mocked at him. Then in despair he left
their villages, and went out into the country, and, seating
himself on the bank of a pond began to cry bitterly.
Suddenly there was a noise close beside him, and a frog jumped
out of the water on to the bank and asked him why he was crying.
The youth told her of his trouble, and how his brothers would
bring home linen spun for them by their promised wives, but that
no one would spin his thread.
Then the frog answered: 'Do not weep on that account; give me
the thread, and I will spin it for you.' And, having said this,
she took it out of his hand, and flopped back into the water, and
the youth went back, not knowing what would happen next.
In a short time the two elder brothers came home, and their
mother asked to see the linen which had been woven out of the
skeins of flax she had given them. They all three left the room;
and in a few minutes the two eldest returned, bringing with them
the linen that had been spun by their chosen wives. But the
youngest brother was greatly troubled, for he had nothing to show
for the skein of flax that had been given to him. Sadly he
betook himself to the pond, and sitting down on the bank, began
Flop! and the frog appeared out of the water close beside him.
'Take this,' she said; 'here is the linen that I have spun for
You may imagine how delighted the youth was. She put the linen
into his hands, and he took it straight back to his mother, who
was so pleased with it that she declared she had never seen linen
so beautifully spun, and that it was far finer and whiter than
the webs that the two elder brothers had brought home.
Then she turned to her sons and said: 'But this is not enough,
my sons, I must have another proof as to what sort of wives you
have chosen. In the house there are three puppies. Each of you
take one, and give it to the woman whom you mean to bring home as
your wife. She must train it and bring it up. Whichever dog
turns out the best, its mistress will be my favourite
So the young men set out on their different ways, each taking a
puppy with him. The youngest, not knowing where to go, returned
to the pond, sat down once more on the bank, and began to weep.
Flop! and close beside him, he saw the frog. 'Why are you
weeping?' she said. Then he told her his difficulty, and that he
did not know to whom he should take the puppy.
'Give it to me,' she said, 'and I will bring it up for you.'
And, seeing that the youth hesitated, she took the little
creature out of his arms, and disappeared with it into the pond.
The weeks and months passed, till one day the mother said she
would like to see how the dogs had been trained by her future
daughters-in-law. The two eldest sons departed, and returned
shortly, leading with them two great mastiffs, who growled so
fiercely, and looked so savage, that the mere sight of them made
the mother tremble with fear.
The youngest son, as was his custom, went to the pond, and called
on the frog to come to his rescue.
In a minute she was at his side, bringing with her the most
lovely little dog, which she put into his arms. It sat up and
begged with its paws, and went through the prettiest tricks, and
was almost human in the way it understood and did what it was
In high spirits the youth carried it off to his mother. As soon
as she saw it, she exclaimed: 'This is the most beautiful little
dog I have ever seen. You are indeed fortunate, my son; you have
won a pearl of a wife.'
Then, turning to the others, she said: 'Here are three shirts;
take them to your chosen wives. Whoever sews the best will be my
So the young men set out once more; and again, this time, the
work of the frog was much the best and the neatest.
This time the mother said: 'Now that I am content with the tests
I gave, I want you to go and fetch home your brides, and I will
prepare the wedding-feast.'
You may imagine what the youngest brother felt on hearing these
words. Whence was he to fetch a bride? Would the frog be able
to help him in this new difficulty? With bowed head, and
feeling very sad, he sat down on the edge of the pond.
Flop! and once more the faithful frog was beside him.
'What is troubling you so much?' she asked him, and then the
youth told her everything.
'Will you take me for a wife?' she asked.
'What should I do with you as a wife,' he replied, wondering at
her strange proposal.
'Once more, will you have me or will you not?' she said.
'I will neither have you, nor will I refuse you,' said he.
At this the frog disappeared; and the next minute the youth
beheld a lovely little chariot, drawn by two tiny ponies,
standing on the road. The frog was holding the carriage door
open for him to step in.
'Come with me,' she said. And he got up and followed her into
As they drove along the road they met three witches; the first of
them was blind, the second was hunchbacked, and the third had a
large thorn in her throat. When the three witches beheld the
chariot, with the frog seated pompously among the cushions, they
broke into such fits of laughter that the eyelids of the blind
one burst open, and she recovered her sight; the hunchback rolled
about on the ground in merriment till her back became straight,
and in a roar of laughter the thorn fell out of the throat of the
third witch. Their first thought was to reward the frog, who had
unconsciously been the means of curing them of their misfortunes.
The first witch waved her magic wand over the frog, and changed
her into the loveliest girl that had ever been seen. The second
witch waved the wand over the tiny chariot and ponies, and they
were turned into a beautiful large carriage with prancing horses,
and a coachman on the seat. The third witch gave the girl a
magic purse, filled with money. Having done this, the witches
disappeared, and the youth with his lovely bride drove to his
mother's home. Great was the delight of the mother at her
youngest son's good fortune. A beautiful house was built for
them; she was the favourite daughter-in-law; everything went well
with them, and they lived happily ever after.
[From the Italian.]